Harder driving test in force

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The Independent Online
A LONGER, more difficult driving test comes into force this week, with candidates needing to watch out for minor errors as well as major ones.

Until now there has been no set limit for small faults committed during the test. But from today the new test regulations stipulate that any candidate guilty of committing more than 15 minor errors will fail. As before, one serious or dangerous fault will mean a failure.

Other changes include:

t An extension of about seven minutes to the duration of the test, which will now take about 38 to 40 minutes.

t Only one in three candidates being asked to do emergency stops.

t Candidates being asked, where practical, to do reverse parking at any time during the test.

t More driving on higher-speed roads.

t A printed, as well as a verbal, explanation of the results of the test - pass or fail.

t A voluntary logbook for instructors and learners to record a learner's progress.

t An increase in the cost of a test - from pounds 32.75 to pounds 36.75.

The changes were welcomed by the AA. "Devoting more time to driving in the test will expose critical weaknesses in areas such as observation skills," said an AA Driving School spokeswoman, Rebecca Hadley. "The longer that candidates are on the road, the more they are inclined to relax, revealing the strengths - or weaknesses - that might come out in everyday driving."

Dave Rogers, road safety adviser for the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, said his organisation wanted to see compulsory use of logbooks and a reassessment of novice drivers two years after they had passed their test.

He said: "Novice drivers have more accidents than other road users ... so they should be reassessed to ensure they have maintained safe driving habits."

t Transport chiefs have banned the most wanted V-prefix registration plate - V14 GRA. Motorists inundated the Driver Vehicle Licensing Agency wanting to buy the registration number when the V-plate comes out in September. But the plate, which could have fetched up to pounds 25,000, has been ruled too rude for the road.